Tag Archives: cybernetics

What’s in Your Bot?

There’s been a huge rush toward using AI (artificial intelligence) to build “conversational UIs“—user interfaces that allow us to type or speak to computers in natural language. Sorta. It’s the latest interaction mode and it comes after people interacting with machines, then talking to each other through machines, then talking to machines. Kindah like a conversation (but not really). Here’s a diagram of that progression:

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Cover of the proposal to NSF, “Graphical Conversation Theory”, written by the MIT Architecture Machine Group, 1977

Today, when you hear about all that, “AI” means a specialized kind of AI that’s hugely popular called machine learning. (Yeah, I didn’t make that a link, you can just google it. We all know that we all know how. You’ll find some OK stuff about it. )

So when Siri or Cortana, Amazon or Google, Apple or Facebook, IBM or GE—all of  whom are infected with the AI meme—deploys the machine-learning brand of artificial intelligence, it might be good for you to think about it. (But then, that’s up to you.)

I think about machine learning being everywhere in the virtual world whenever I make a typo on my mobile and my text gets snatched away from me and turned into drivel. (Or every time I ask my intelligent assistant two related questions in a row and it behaves as if I’m the schizophrenic in the chat.)

And here’s how I think about it: Read more…

Happy 105th Birthday, Heinz!

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Mai and Heinz von Foerster in Pangaro’s 1970 Citroën DS21 in Pescadero, California, in the early 2000s (Photograph: Paul Pangaro)

Heinz von Foerster was born 105 years ago today. He was a major figure in the beginnings of cybernetics from the middle of the 20th century, and through to its flowering as second-order cybernetics. His ideas can be magical and one of his papers is still a favorite and voted the favorite of students in cybernetics + design courses year upon year.  His wife, Mai, also magical in her clarity as well as succinctness (a trait not shared by Heinz), once said to me, “Heinz has a mind like a crystal.” He demonstrates this so well in his “Ethical Imperative”, a cybernetic koan worthy of contemplation and action: Read more…

Lost History of Cybernetics

sidebarnwmp_portraitNorbert Wiener is the centerpoint of a new project to raise awareness about the history of cybernetics.

There are quite a few videos, including a 16-minute trailer about the proposed full-length documentary (full disclosure: I’m advisor to the project and appear on-screen). The site also offers a wonderful talk by Andy Pickering, proposing a new synthesis and New Macy Meetings. (Andy started using the term “antidisciplinarity” in reference to cybernetics, which brought cybernetics to the attention of Joi Ito, director of the MIT Media Lab, as described in his piece in the Design + Science Journal.)

Workshop on Modeling Conversation

To understand conversation is to understand how we learn about the world and how we communicate and collaborate with others. Products and services can benefit from a better understanding of conversation. Designers benefit from understanding conversation better, because they can design for better conversations.

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Conversation Model by Minsun Mini Kim, SVA IxD MFA Grad. Click for full view.

Read more…

Frameworks for Interaction and Conversation

Banner for cybernetics course for designers

In the Fall 2016 Semester, CCS MFA Interaction Design is introducing a new elective, Frameworks for Interaction and Conversation.  It’s an in-depth course that explores cybernetic models of effective action that apply to design of software, services, products, entertainment, or organizations.  Read more…

MIT Media Lab & Design

I believe that by bringing together design and science we can produce a rigorous but flexible approach that will allow us to explore, understand and contribute to science in an antidisciplinary way. — Joi Ito

Joi Ito, director of the MIT Media Lab, is starting a new journal with MIT Press and MIT Libraries called Design and Science. His introductory post takes the stand that science suffers from narrow vocabularies that create silos of thinking and restrict rich collaboration.

Read more…